Are You Engorged?

What is Breast Engorgement?
For the first few days after birth, your breasts will produce a highly nutritious milk called colostrum. Around the third or fourth day following birth, your breasts will start the production of mature breast milk. 

While this milk isn’t as packed with nutrients, it flows more abundantly, providing excellent nutrition for your little one.  As this comes in, more blood flows to your breast and tissues will swell.  This causes most women’s breasts to become painfully engorged.  Severe breast engorgement will leave your breasts rock-hard and your areolas rigid.  You may even experience a low-grade fever.  The length of time that breast engorgement will affect you differs for each woman.  It can last up to two weeks, but there are things you can do to help solve your dilemma.

How do You Treat Engorgement?
There’s many ways to treat engorgement and comfort your pain:

  • Breastfeed.  Make sure to breastfeed your newborn frequently: between 10-12 times a day or approximately every two hours.  Don’t supplement with formula unless you’re under a doctor’s orders to do so.  Breastfeeding will help to prevent future engorgement!
  • Express your milk.  If you miss a feeding, it’s important to express your milk.  Use a hospital-grade breast pump to protect your delicate breast tissues from damage. 
  • Cabbage leaves.  Some women take great comfort in applying fresh green cabbage leaves to their breasts.  Simply pull off a few cabbage leaves and wash them. Leave them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag until chilled.  Once cold, take out of the fridge and place over your breasts or in your bra.  Don’t use these for extended periods of time as cabbage leaves can lead to a decreased milk supply.  Each cabbage leaf can be used for up to two hours or until they wilt. 
  • Breast shells.  If your nipples have flattened due to engorgement, latching on could prove difficult for your newborn.  Breast shells will gently make your nipples evert, making latch on more successful and therefore helping you to breastfeed. 
  • Apply heat.  The use of a hot compress (or warm, moist towels) can alleviate some of that pain.  Heat should be applied for no more than several minutes.  Prolonged heat can actually make engorgement worse. 
  • Gentle massage.  You can help your milk flow better by gently massaging your breasts. 

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